How To Critique A Movie Script

Nahi mein lekin ki gunjaish nahi hoti” said Amitabh Bachchan as I reached for more popcorn at the movie, ‘Pink’. I agree. You should say “nahi” to bad scripts with as much certainty as that dialogue and walk away from it as soon as possible. However, how do you really know if the script of your movie is good enough before it hits the box office? Well, here are a few thoughts:

Say “Nahi” to Monologues!

Every writer feels strongly about certain things in life and has a monologue in his head. If you sense that all the characters you see, the situations they face and everything in the movie is scripted literally to come to that one monologue, say “nahi”. That is some seriously bad writing. Why? Well, simply because monologues come from what you feel about the way things are. They are devoid of a complete understanding of reality, social norms and the complete facts. An approach that first understands where the story is based, what are the socially accepted norms that contradict the laws of the land and what situation came into play, gives more depth to how different characters will act in them.

One of the most interesting examples I could give you is that of Italian Theatre or as it is called the Commedia dell’arte. Unlike any other theatre in the world, the thing that makes the Commedia dell’arte most interesting is that the actors aren’t given dialogues. They’re given characters to play, with a set of pre-defined characteristics. The situation is announced before the play and the actors make impromptu conversations based on the situation they’re in.

Now, that is what I’d call a reality show.

How PINK is your script?

It is commonly called the Bagel Test, which I truly found fascinating when I read about it. It comprises of 3 basic questions that you must ask yourself when you’re watching a movie or reading a script.
1) Are there at least two women characters in the movie with names?
2) Do they talk to eachother at any point in the movie?
3) Is the conversation they have about anything but their common love interest?

Most people believe that the Bagel Test mostly helps movies even out the gender bias and has more content that is pro-women in the movie. I wouldn’t think that it only has a feminist angle to it. The reality of life is that 50% of the population are women, who, like men have their own ambitions, thoughts and to put it mildly, their own life. Their individual opinions in life do have a huge impact in the lives of the other 50%. Therefore a script devoid of what the women in the movie are talking about, simply makes the entire writing lose character and lose track of reality. While many would argue that films aren’t really about reality, we cannot deny that all films need to have something to relate to. If Minions have eyes and speak from their lips instead of their toes, that is because it isn’t Avant Garde. It’s for the people living in a reality that we share.

The Added Contrast

“If I ever made Cinderella, the audience would be looking for a body in the couch” said Alfred Hitchcock and I thought we should let this piece of advice come from the man himself.

While a photographer would tell you that light and colour used to play with the contrasts in an image can make it come to life, emotions aren’t any different. Shoot a romance like a murder mystery and a thriller like romance and you have the perfect contrast for a dramatic screenplay. While reading a script, it would be interesting to look for contrasts in every aspect of the film. The way the character appears in the beginning and the contrasting people they become by the end of it. Much like Walter White in Breaking Bad or literally all the characters in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, for example. It shows the impact the situation had on them, adds more depth to their personalities and the audience walks away with an intimate understanding of the character. The same goes with the progress of the plot. This is what a film like PINK with a monologue in the waiting can never achieve.

How Preachy Are We Feeling Today?

Many films have been designed to change the way people think. Even books like Charles Dickens' classic Oliver Twist had a huge impact in the way people saw and treated orphans in the society during Industrialisation.

However, preachy films are the worst.

Honestly, If I saw one more Aamir Khan movie where he’s telling us how to live our lives and think about things, I’m going to really lose my cool. The most important thing to remember if you want to shed light on a social evil is to shed light on it and not show how it changes. Life isn’t preachy, life is only an experience and the audience must take away what they want to by the end of it. Being preachy in a film is much like watching Hillary Clinton’s presidential debates against Trump, where her only point is that the opposing candidate is a universal joke, but fails to truly justify her opinions on national and world affairs.

I hope you find these useful, I’d love to know your opinions on the same!